The Bestest leadership team, from left: Kelly Helmuth, chief marketing officer; Rachel Shatkin, product development; Vick Goel, co-founder; and Indian American entrepreneur Lalit Goel, co-founder and CEO. (photo courtesy University at Buffalo/Douglas Levere)

For Bestest, a new polling app, the idea came when a wife selecting a pair of glasses grew frustrated with her husband’s ‘they’re-all-good’ attitude and uttered: “I wish I could just poll my friends. You’re no help.”

“Poll your friends? What a great idea!” Lalit Goel thought. “But someone must already be doing that.”

Turns out, nobody was. There were polling options on some social media platforms, but the Indian American entrepreneur found no simple system dedicated to quickly poll groups. So Goel, who holds an MBA from UB, built one.

Bestest is an app for phones and tablets on which users can instantly poll any assortment of their contacts, or any much larger population. For example, a woman can poll friends by showing photos of several dresses and ask which one is most attractive on her. Or, someone could ask the entire population of UB students on the app what sport the university should next elevate to Division 1 status.

“It’s very simple,” Goel says. “You’re just trying to see what the market thinks.”

Business applications for the app could be vast. Clothing designers can get opinions about different styles before going into production. Such a simple polling platform could greatly speed up the time it takes to get a product to market, Goel says.

UB has become the primary test market for the new app. 

Kelly Helmuth, chief marketing officer at Bestest, says the company plans to expand through colleges and universities. “Colleges are natural because the app is based on group decisions, and schools have the groups.

“UB is a microcosm for us, for our entire marketplace,” Helmuth says. From clubs to academia and entrepreneurs, the university provides an ample and diverse population that can benefit from instant polling, she says.

“The number one thing UB has done for us is validation. Other schools see UB using us and they will try it,” she says.

Bestest is housed in the UB Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road. Goel and Helmuth each started companies in the incubator in 2001. Goel started RFQLogix, which led to him acquiring the Aerostar Group, a contract manufacturing business; Helmuth started WorldWebDex.

Both see almost unlimited potential growth for the new company.

“We believe we will be the de facto polling platform in social media,” Helmuth says.

The company also may have a future in the big data business, given that it will know how different populations of people vote. “We will have better information than any other app,” Helmuth says. “We’ll have desirable (and often inaccessible) demographic and behavioral data.”

Cynthia Shore, senior assistant dean and director of external relations in the School of Management, says the school is planning to use Bestest to poll its Alumni Association’s board of directors.

“Lalit was such an outstanding student when he was here, I have complete confidence in him and because of that, the app,” she says.

The simple and quick way the app works makes it fun to poll friends or groups. Helmuth calls it the “gamification” of polling.

The flexibility of the app makes it very appealing, says Mahmud Wazihullah, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Mercy College. And as participation grows, the usefulness of the app will grow.

“I can poll 20 friends coming over for a meal about what they want to eat, or I could poll 100,000 people in New York about something,” he says.

Wazihullah sees the app growing fast because it is something people like to share.

“Anything that intrinsically asks that it be shared with other people is something that can grow,” he says.

Gabriela Julia, editor-in-chief of The Spectrum, UB’s student newspaper, is planning to use Bestest for student polling.

“We’re planning to put Bestest on the bottom of our page so students can look into it,” she says. “That’s how much we believe in the app.

“I think polling is great. We can publish the results and get a better idea of what students are thinking,” she says.

(This article was originally published on the University at Buffalo website and is reproduced here with permission.)

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